Samsung is one of the biggest consumer electronics companies on the planet, with different arms making almost every gadget you could possibly want in your home or in your pocket.
2020 has seen the company bring out a variety of new products including new TVs, top-end smartphones and a variety of other devices you may have already purchased this year – or you may be considering.
As 2020 is wrapping up, we’re taking a look at what we’ve seen from the company throughout the last year and running you through the biggest announcements Samsung has made.
Expect big things from Samsung in the coming months too as we’re expecting the Samsung Galaxy S21 to land in early 2021 and it’s likely we’ll see a whole new host of announcements from the company at CES 2021, too.
Mobile phones: Samsung Galaxy S20 and more foldables
The best way to sum up Samsung’s year in smartphones is by telling you the Samsung Galaxy S20 remains our best smartphone in the world right now. Despite announcements like the OnePlus 8 Pro and iPhone 12, Samsung has held onto its crown since it unveiled its latest flagship Galaxy S series in early 2020.
That series of phones brought 5G to the mainstream Galaxy S series in a bigger way than we had seen before, the design was refined, there were some big camera improvements and the company fully embraced 120Hz display technology too.
It was also the debut of the new Galaxy S Ultra series with the Galaxy S20 Ultra taking a lot of the attention with its defining 100x zoom camera. We didn’t love that smartphone on the whole, but that rear camera is nevertheless a phenomenal piece of technology.
Then Samsung debuted its second form factor of foldable phone – the Galaxy Z Flip. This clamshell device may look like a Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP, but it brought a new way of looking at foldable phones into view.
Later in the year, Samsung brought out its Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra with the latter of those two devices getting the most attention. It features a premium design, a powerful 108MP camera and various S Pen improvements over the Galaxy Note 10 series.
The Galaxy Note 20 didn’t impress us as much with it sporting a ‘Glasstic’ (that’s glass and plastic together) rear and some less than top-end specs despite a very high price. If you want a Galaxy Note phone from 2020, we’d recommend spending extra and going for the Note 20 Ultra.
Samsung’s foldable journey continued with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 debuting in September with a variety of improvements over its predecessor. It’s more robust generally, plus the front display is far more usable as it has increased in size since the first-gen product.
Samsung also brought a new line of devices to market this year for those who don’t want to spend as much but want some impressive technology. The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition debuted in October with some bold and colorful designs and a lot of the top-end features from the S20 without the super high price.
Overall, Samsung has had an impressive year in the Galaxy world with some top-end handsets holding their own in the rankings of the very best smartphones as well as making some bold steps in new worlds like the foldable space and introducing 5G technology too.
TV: 8K innovations, but losing ground in budget space
In 2020, we needed at-home entertainment more than ever – and for most of us, our big-screen TV was the place to find it. According to The NPD Group, sales of 65-inch TVs increased by over 50% year-on-year in the first half of 2020, which means companies like Samsung made out alright in what was otherwise a very rough year.
To its credit, Samsung isn’t resting on its laurels here – while it could’ve pulled back on its R&D budget, the Korean company trudged forward by announcing a slew of new TV technologies, including most recently a consumer-facing version of The Wall.
As screen sizes get larger, Samsung is also one of the driving forces behind making them look better, too: it has more 8K TV models than almost any other TV maker, and it’s openly embraced the new HDMI 2.1 spec needed for 4K at 120Hz or 8K/60.
And yet, as Samsung drives innovations in the high-end space ever higher, it’s losing ground in the budget space as TV makers like Vizio, TCL and Hisense move into the market with exceptional screens of their own. Those companies are doing some incredible things, to their credit, but part of the reason for their success is that Samsung hasn’t put as much engineering effort into its Crystal UHD TVs as it has its QLED line-up: the former are often edge-lit LED-LCD TVs with a native 60Hz refresh rate and a basic upscaler.
Without a crystal ball it’s impossible to say for certain what Samsung will cook up for 2021, but if it turns out to be anything like this year, expect even bigger screens, a bigger emphasis on 8K resolution and a wider range of HDMI 2.1-compatible TVs that you’ll be able to pair with the new Xbox Series X and PS5.
Audio: New true wireless, but no Galaxy Home
It’s been a busy year for Samsung’s audio wing, with multiple releases throughout 2020 and more to come on the horizon.
In February, the company announced the follow-up to the Samsung Galaxy Buds true wireless earbuds; the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus offered a better battery life and superior audio quality compared to their predecessors, but failed to truly take off due to a lack of active noise cancellation and limited audio codec support.
Then, in August, we had the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, a pair of unusual bean-shaped true wireless earbuds that had been the subject of rumor for months ahead of their release.
These strange earbuds represented a dramatic design departure for Samsung, and were quite unlike any buds we’d seen before. They also came with the promise of noise cancellation – though their ‘semi-open’ design meant that they couldn’t compete with the likes of the Apple AirPods Pro in this regard.
More recently, we’ve been hearing rumors that Samsung is on the verge of releasing yet another pair of true wireless earbuds. While we don’t think they’ll materialize before the end of the year, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are said to be launching in January 2021 alongside the new Galaxy S21 series. Is that ‘Pro’ in the name a nod to the AirPods Pro and a hint that they could come with active noise cancellation? We’ll have to wait and see.
One audio device we didn’t see this year? The long-awaited Samsung Galaxy Home smart speaker . We’ve been waiting for the Google Nest and Amazon Echo rival to be launched for over two years now, and while we’ve pretty much given up hope at this point, Samsung did launch a mini version of the smart speaker back in February in South Korea. So far, the Samsung Galaxy Home Mini has yet to leave the company’s home turf, which suggests it may have just been a promotional release. In any case, we’re not holding our breath for a Samsung smart speaker in the near future.
Wearables: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is another triumph
Wearables haven’t been the focus for Samsung in 2020, but it has made some impressive headway in the market by taking our best smartwatch mantle for a couple of months with its latest top-end wristwear.
Rather than changing everything we expect from a smartwatch, it refined the experience with an electrocardiogram, better battery life than its predecessor and more powerful internals too.
The Galaxy Watch 3 was bumped from the top spot in our best smartwatch list a couple of months later with the introduction of the Apple Watch SE, but for many the Galaxy Watch 3 will be the ultimate smartwatch experience.
Plus, Samsung reintroduced itself in the fitness tracker market in early September. The Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 features a two week battery life and it’s the company’s latest attempt to take on Fitbit.